The Truth About Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings

November 5, 1998. Using DNA evidence, the scientific journal Nature publishes findings that put to rest a centuries-old mystery: Was Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman at Monticello, the mother of six of Thomas Jefferson’s children? Until then, the historical consensus had been this: “The Jefferson-Hemings relationship can be neither refuted nor substantiated.” Jefferson’s white descendants were more categorical: they flatly denied it. But now the truth was out. Why was this story denied for so long, and what does that say about whose version of history is believed? And how did it revise our understanding of America’s third president?

Special thanks to our guests: Professor Annette Gordon-Reed, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family as well as the book, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: an American Controversy. And Gayle Jessup White, a descendant of Thomas Jefferson

and Sally Hemings and author of the book, Reclamation: Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson, and a Descendant’s Search for her Family’s Lasting Legacy.

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